On the Fringe of Fame, by Elizabeth Fleming Rhodes, Chapter 8

On the Fringe of Fame


California and he Pacific, 1849–51

BECAUSE THE GOLD RUSH was in full flood, travel to California was at a premium. Richard and his clerk1 joined the throngs and sailed on June 6th from Mobile, Alabama, on the British steamer Clyde arriving in Veracruz, Mexico, four and a half days later. Here Richard encountered his first in a series of delays, writing on the 14th:

. . . Vera Cruz is at this season of the year very hot and dull. No public amusements nor other resources for strangers. My delay here has been occasioned by the great demand for seats in the stages which only leave three times a week. Tonight myself and party take our turn and expect to reach Mexico on the evening of the 18th.

This town contains about 7000 inhabitants [and] is entirely filled up there being not a vacant lot in the City, the buildings large and admirably constructed for the climate. The churches numerous and gorgeous and the people unobtrusive and quiet. After eleven o’clock at night all public houses and shops close and no person is seen in the streets except now and then a watchman or straggler.

My principal occupation in this place is bathing, sleeping and thinking of home. Occasionally I go to market which at this season affords little else than a tolerably good collection of fruit, amongst which to my surprise I found tolerably good cherries and pears. Of all the numerus fruits new to me, I found not one fit to eat.

All the persons to whom I have letters of introduction are absent and consequently I have made few acquaintances, and received only two invitations to visit which I declined.2

Like Ruxton, he traveled by the dilegencia [stage coach) from Vera Cruz to Jalapa, at the foot of Mount Macultepec, and on to Puebla. Here Ruxton tells us it was customary for a robber to look over the passengers, and this was probably done, for Richard wrote:

On my way from Vera Cruz to Mexico and from Mexico to this place, my party was several times menaced by robbers, but owing to the arrangement for defense, passed unmolested; they saw that we were prepared. At a small town between this place [Tepic] and Mexico we were notified by the landlord and several citizens that a considerable band had left to take us, but my party, consisting of six well armed men, determined to proceed. They considered prudence the better part of valor and did not attack us. Before and since our passage, scarcely a party has passed unmolested.3

The dilegencia rattled past the lovely cones of Popocateptl and couchant ant Ixtaccihuatl, through pine forests lined with crosses marking the places where travelers had been killed, past frail reed huts with thatched roofs, red-tiled haciendas, fields of corn, endless rows of spikey leaved maguey, dusty adobe villages, lakes and high plateaus, rolling plains, cliffs and gorges, to the ancient metropolis of Mexico. Here Richard saw the contrasts of light and shade: great cathedral and palaces shunning tumbledown hovels, wealthy and fashionable hidalgos, ragged beggars and hopeless peons. Richard did not spend much time in sightseeing, however, as he had business to attend to.

My trip through Mexico offered me an opportunity to examine the resources of that country, with regard to purchasing supplies and as to the means of negotiating government drafts for funds, neither of which; except in cases of extremity, do I think advisable.4

Continuing his journey across the high plateau of Central Mexico, he hastened through arid, cacti-covered land and fertile valleys, past beautiful Lake Chapala and Guadalajara, arriving at Tepic one day too late to catch the July 12th steamer, the delay caused by a “derangement of the stage line.”

July 24, 1849

Dear Mama:

I am now at this town 40 miles from San Bias, the business place and shipping port of Tepic where I have been a fortnight awaiting the arrival of a steamer. The last steamer having passed the day before my arrival which throws me back nearly a journey. Tepic is nearly 5000 feet above the ocean, which renders the climate agreeable for a tropical region and is quite healthy—I continue to enjoy excellent health and so far am benefited by the trip. I am in the house of an old lady who calls herself thirty, is very vain of her dignity, and that of her husband, locks up every night, and feeds us on miserable cookery. At first I submitted with good grace, as the town affords no amusements, and if so, I have no desire to participate.5

Poor Richard! Fifty-two years old arid locked in at night like an adolescent. Later, reporting his trip to General Gibson, Richard stated:

The route through Mexico in many respects is full of interest, at least for one trip, and may all things favorable, be accomplished in twenty days, from Mobile to San Blas, at an expense of about eight hundred dollars, it cost me however about one thousand dollars, owning to unavoidable delays and the great number of emigrants upon the road, consuming all the means of transportation and consequently increasing the price.6

Finally, on July 25th, he took a hot, winding road down through the jungle to San Blas, a seaport west of Tepic, about 120 miles south of Mazatlan. Transportation failed to materialize, and Richard bewailed his fate, writing to his family,

In the most sickly, hot and uninteresting place on earth, for sixteen days I suffered all the torments that bad living, heat, sandflies, mosquitoes, fleas and filth could engender, for which I was obliged to pay most extravagantly.7

Seven hundred and seventy-five vessels sailed for California in 1849, but few of them succeeded in returning from the port of San Francisco, as the crews deserted in droves for the gold fields, leaving the harbor jammed with ghost ships. Consequently, all the vessels heading toward California were overcrowded, the steamer Panama being no exception. In spite of the mob, however, Richard wangled “a place in some part of the boat,” on August 9th.8

The Panama was a wooden side-wheeler, 200 feet long, weighing 1087 tons, a leviathan for the Gold Rush run. Engine trouble on her maiden voyage to California had sent this Howland Aspinwall steamer back to New York and had prevented her from reaching California until June. Now she was making up for lost time, cramming mail and Argonauts between her two decks for the passage from Panama to San Francisco.

The Panama had anchored outside the harbor, because the bar was too shallow for such a large vessel. Richard and the other passengers were paddled out to the ship through breakers, the small boats laden with strings of bananas, plantains, limes and oranges, and two live bullocks for meals on board. A few passengers rode in dugout canoes and had to lie flat on the bottom for fear of upsetting the precarious balance. Finally the steamer’s guns signalled the hour of departure, and Richard was glad to watch the sandy bight, palmetto-thatched hovels, and swampy landscape of San Blas disappear. The great white rock, Blanco Mer, shone in the distance, and California lay ahead.

Among the 250 passengers crammed on board was an articulate reporter who described the voyage in his best seller, Eldorado. Bayard Taylor was a twenty-four-year-old poet who had two successful books to his credit: a volume of poetry and an account of his two years of travel in Europe. Taylor wrote:

Our vessel was crowded fore and aft. Exercise was rendered quite impossible and sleep each night a new experiment. . . . We were roused at daylight by the movements on deck, if not earlier, by the breaking of a hammock-rope and the thump and yell of the unlucky sleeper. Coffee was served in the cabin. . . . The breakfast hour was nine, and he table was obliged to be fully set twice. At the first tingle of the bell, all hands started as if a shot had exploded among them; conversation was broken off in the middle of a word; the deck was instantly cleared, and the passengers, tumbling pell mell down the cabin stairs found every seat taken by others who had probably been sitting in them for half an hour.9

As they approached the craggy islands off the white town of Mazatlan, they met the S.S. California with news from the gold fields. (Six years later, Lee was almost shipwrecked on this same steamship.)

Taylor continues his account of the voyage:

“There is California!” was the cry next morning at sunrise. “Where?” “Off the starboard bow.” I rose on my bunk in one of the deck state-rooms, and looking out of the window, watched the purple mountains of the Peninsula, as they rose in the fresh, inspiring air. We were opposite its southern extremity, and I scanned the brown and sterile coast with a glass, searching for anything like vegetation. The whole country appeared to be a mass of nearly naked rock, nourishing only a few cacti and some stunted shrubs.10

On the 12th of August they passed the Island of Santa Marguerita. The passengers had heard that the charts of these waters were far from accurate. A proof of this was the fact that the Panama had run aground on her trip south, and a whaling ship had been lost here a few months before.

The temperature had changed. The tropics were behind; “cool winds drove many passengers from the deck, and the rest of us had some chance for exercise. All were in the best spirits at the prospect of soon reaching our destination.” There was merriment and “boyish tricks” in addition to the constant faro, played by the gamblers.

Benito Island. Two days later, they saw the sun rise behind the mountains of San Diego.

Point Lorna, at the extremity of the bay, came in sight on the left, and in less than an how we were at anchor before the hide-houses at the landing place. . . . The harbor is the finest on the Pacific, with the exception of Acapulco, and capable of easy and complete defense. The old hide-houses are built at the foot of the hills just inside the bay, and a fine road along the shore leads to the town of San Diego, which is situated on a plain, three miles distant and barely visible from the anchorage.11

Fifty more passengers were added to the crowd. General Villamel from the Republic of Equador, former aid to Bolivar, had much to say about the colony of 150 people he had founded on the Galapagos Island, where he had been living for sixteen years. Equally fascinating were the stories told by the emigrants who had just arrived in San Diego after crossing the continent on the Santa Fe and Gila Trails. The emigrants were

. . . lank and brown “as is die ribbed sea-sand”—men with long hair and beards and faces from which the rigid expression of suffering was scarcely relaxed. . . . Their clothes were in tatters, their boots, in many cases, replaced by moccasins, and, except for their rifles and some small packages rolled in deerskin, they had nothing left of the abundant stores with which they left home.12

North they sailed, passing Santa Catalina Island in the afternoon.

The next day we were off Cape Conception, the Cape Horn of California. True to its character, we, had a cold, dense fog, and violent head-winds; the coast was shrouded from sight.

The weather cleared after they had rounded treacherous Point Conception, and the passengers could see the Coast Range, “spotted with timber.” Point Piños was rounded at dawn, and they were at Monterey, Taylor writing, “A handsome fort, on an eminence near the sea, returned our salute. Four vessels, shattered; weather-beaten and apparently deserted, lay at anchor not far from shore. The town . . . has the air of a large New England village, barring the adobe houses. Major Lee and Lieut. Beale, who went ashore in the steamers boat, found Gen. Riley, the Civil Governor, very ill with a fever.”13

Richard had heard A great deal about Bennett Riley from Charles Bent on the5anta Fe Trail, from fellow officers and newspaper reports. Riley had escorted the Santa Fe caravan of 1829 which had been captained by Charles Bent. He had fought in the Black Hawk War and in the Mexican War at Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, and Conreras, when he had been breveted Major General. Now he would serve as provisional governor of California until the first elections, and was working hard for California’s statehood.

The officer with whom Richard went ashore at Monterey, was not a stranger to California. Twenty-seven-year-old Edward Fitzgerald Beale had fought in the disastrous Battle of San Pascual under Lieutenant Gillespie and had succeeded in sneaking through enemy lines to carry the news of Kearny’s plight to Commodore Stockton. He was now on his fifth journey in two years from Atlantic to pacific, a rather reluctant traveler, as he had just been married. He and Bayard Taylor had become such close friends on this voyage that Taylor dedicated his book, Eldorado, to Beale.

Their departure from Monterey was full of beauty.

As we were preparing to leave, the sun rose over the mountains, covering the air with gold brighter than ever was scratched up on the Sacramento. The picturesque houses of Monterey, the pine woods behind and the hills above them, glowed like an illuminated painting, till a fog curtain which met us at the mouth of the harbor dropped down upon the water and hid them all from sight.14

The next day at noon they were

running along the shore, within six or eight miles distance; the hills are bare and sandy, but loom up finely through the deep blue haze. . . . The coast trends somewhat more to the westward, and a notch or gap is at least visible in its lofty outline.

An hour later; we are in front of the entrance to San Francisco Bay. The mountains on the northern side are 3,000 feet in hight [sic], and come boldly down to the sea. As the view opens through the splendid strait . . . the island rock of Alcatraz appears, gleaming white in the distance. An inward bound ship follows close on our wake, urged on by wind and tide. There is a small fort perched among the trees on our right, where the strait is narrowest. . . . The town is still concealed behind the promontory around which the Bay turns to the southward, but between Alcatraz and the island of Yerba Buena, now coming into sight, I can see the vessels at anchor. . . . Thirty miles distant rises the peak of Monte Diablo. . . . On our left opens the bright of Saucolito, where the U.S. propeller “Massachusetts” and several other vessels are at anchor.

At last we are through the Golden Gate—fit name for such a magnificent portal to the commerce of the Pacific . . . Harbor, crowded with the shipping of the world, mast behind mast and vessel behind vessel, the flags of all nations fluttering in the breeze. . . . Around the curving shore . . . upon the sides of three hills which rise steeply from the water . . . the town is planted and seems scarcely to have taken root, for tents, canvas, plank, mud and adobe houses are mingled together with the least apparent attempt at order and durability. But I am not yet on shore. The gun of the “Panama” has just announced our arrival to the people on land. We glide on with the tide, past the U.S. Ship “Ohio” and opposite the main landing, outside the forest of masts A dozen boats are creeping out to us over the water; the signal is given—the anchor drops—our voyage is over.15

San Francisco, 1849. S.S. Panama shows with tall smoke stack at far right, second row.
From collection of California Historical Society.

Richard did not linger in San Francisco. Sending his clerk east to Benicia, the headquarters of the Subsistence Department, he headed north across the bay to report to General Smith in Sonoma. He soon forgot the confusion of San Francisco as he enjoyed the beauty of Mt. Tamalpais rising above the water and scrub-covered islands. The peaceful Mexican town of Sonoma, surrounded by rolling ranch country, seemed a great contrast to the shanty town of San Francisco. The main buildings were built around a large treeless plaza where the Bear Flag had been raised by impatient Americans in June 1846. General Smith’s headquarters were in a house diagonally across the plaza from the unpretentious adobe mission and the barracks, which had been taken from Vallejo’s soldiers during the Bear Flag Revolt.

General Smith and his wife had been so horrified by the living conditions in San Francisco that he had transferred the military headquarters to Sonoma shortly after his arrival in February 1849. A Princeton graduate a year younger than Richard, Persifer Frazier Smith had started life as a lawyer and judge, not sampling military life until the Seminole War, when he served as commander of a regiment of volunteers. In the Mexican War he had seen action around Monterey as the commander of a brigade under Zachary Taylor and had been breveted a Major General for his conduct at the battles of Contreras and Churubrisco. His ability as Military Governor of Mexico City and Commanding Officer of Vera Cruz had led to his appointment as Commander of the Pacific Division. This had been a popular choice, because General Smith was loved and admired by everyone, from the men in the ranks to the Commanding General, Winfield Scot, who called him “gallant and judicious.” As Richard was to make a three month’s trip to Oregon with General Smith, he would get to know him well.

After reporting to General Smith on August 24th, Richard returned to San Franciso, his boat approaching the city just as the sunset made the Golden gate a fiery gold. The city was reflected on the water, transformed by night into a magic lantern. As Bayard Taylor wrote, it was

. . . unlike anything I ever beheld. The houses are mostly of canvas, which is made transparent by the lamps within, and transforms them, in the darkness, to dwellings of solid light. . . . Here and there show out brilliant points, from the decoy-lamps of the gaming-houses; and through the indistinct murmurs of the streets comes by fits the sound of music from their hot and crowded precincts.16

San Francisco harbor in 1849–50 was a forest of abandoned ships.
From photograph owned by Society of California Pioneers.

While Richard waited for the arrival of General Smith, he kept himself busy issuing circulars to the different posts asking for statements of supplies, funds, and estimates. He also established a price list for the sale of provisions to the officers and soldiers for their own and their families’ consumption (pork, six cents a pound; flour, two and a half cents a pound; coffee, eight cents a pound) because the high costs in the city were prohibitive.

Richard was horrified at San Francisco prices, decrying the sum of six dollars a day for room and board, and “ale or claret two dollars per bottle.” Realizing that the “liberal allowance of the Quartermaster Department is a commutation of fifteen dollars per month for a room or sixty dollars for a Major’s allowance, Richard felt a real concern for his clerk, whose salary had been set at seventy-five dollars a month. Discovering that servants in San Francisco were earning from a hundred and fifty to three hundred dollars a month and that the quartermaster’s clerk was getting two hundred dollars, Richard asked for permission to increase his clerk’s wages to a hundred and fifty and to give him leave to “pick up something during my absence and thus pay his board and washing.”17 The washing, alas, was “eight dollars per dozen.” While General Smith was urging officers to “pick up something” extra to make ends meet, William Tecumseh Sherman, Fremont, and Joseph Hooker were speculating in real estate and surveying ranches on the side.

Richard also looked into the market situation and found that he could make favorable contracts in San Francisco to supply the forts with Chilean flour, at thirteen dollars a barrel, which he felt to be superior to flour from the States. Because of the abundance of cattle in California, salt beef would not have to be imported, but he urged the Department of Subsistence to prepare and send its own pork and ham from the States. Richard was worried about the lack of fresh vegetables, which could not be bought at any price, and asked the department to send a limited supply of “onions packed in tight barrels with strong brine as an experiment.”18

Like all San Franciscans, Richard listened to the news from the gold fields, writing,

Some few emigrants by the overland route from the Western States, have reached the gold region, generally in a very broken down and forlorn condition, and one or two have arrived at this place. They speak of much suffering and distress upon the route, and I think it probable great numbers will not get through. Accounts from the gold mines continue to be encouraging, and the yield per man on an average from twenty to thirty dollars per day. But it is by no means a certain result, some work for weeks without earning expenses, whilst others, more lucky, obtain large amounts.19

Richard was away almost four months on this trip with General Smith and his staff, inspecting three forts established by the General in Oregon: Fort Vancouver, Oregon City and Steilacoom Cantonment.20 These forts seemed remote, indeed, and transportation unpredictable and hazardous; the first U.S. troops had arrived safely by sea, but the one regiment that had come overland had lost seventy men en route.

The first fort they visited was Fort Vancouver, an old Hudson Bay Trading Post which had been abandoned by the British when the Treaty of 1846 had moved the U.S.-Canadian boundary north of it. Because of its location on the north bank of the navigable Columbia River, one hundred miles from the sea, it had been made the headquarters for the Northwest and depot for Army supplies, and now housed one company of artillery.

Fort Vancouver, 1845

The British trading post was like a town built inside the 732-foot-long stockade, with sawmill, jail, church and shops. The former residence of the great factor, John McLoughlin, had French windows and a vine-covered porch with curved staircases, which gave this pioneer landscape a civilized and settled appearance.

The Columbia surged with a booming prosperity; in 1849 the gold Rush had brought more than fifty vessels across the hazardous bar of the river in quest of wheat and lumber. Unfortunately for this department, Richard discovered that the only supplies that could be brought economically in Oregon were fresh beef, a “limited quantity of flour at high prices,” and a few vegetables. He advised the department to send all future provisions to Oregon “in two vessels of moderate tonnage, that in case of the loss of one the supply may not be entirely cut off. And also to avoid the great loss and damage which arises from packing large quantities of barrels upon each other.” He felt that it was important to ship #&8220;direct to Fort Vancouver to which point there is always plenty of water for large brigs or ships of light tonnage.”21

This advice resulted from experience; the Army had learned the hard and expensive way, as Richard explained: “The supplies went out by the ‘Walpool’ were landed at Astoria and subjected to great loss from exposure to weather and in the reshipment besides an additional expense nearly equivalent to the cost of transportation to that point.”22

Oregon City, the next fort they visited, had been founded on the Willamette River in1842 by the ubiquitous McLoughlin. Unfortunately, its location between rapids doomed it to a boomless, small-town existence. Already it was feeling the slump, and the fort of six companies of Rifles would be of little importance.

After inspecting these forts, the General and his party traveled north to Steilacoom Cantonment, a former possession of the Hudson Bay subsidiary, “the Puget Sound Agricultural Company.#&8221; This post, which had one company of Artillery, was located on fertile meadows sloping to the island-dotted sound, near today’s Tacoma, Washington. Here, as on the Columbia, Richard saw additional evidence of the growing prosperity.

Richard sampled Oregon’s famous rainy season as he traveled through the forests from Fort Vancouver to Steilacoom, via Cowlitz Farms.

In December last I was much exposed to the weather, and on my trip from Fort Vancouver to Puget Sound to nine consecutive days of rain, in a canoe and on horseback, which resulted in a slight intermitting fever and irritation of the lungs.23

Back in San Francisco on December 28th, he handed over General Smith’s dispatches to a young officer who had orders to take them in person to General Winfield Scott in New York City.24 This young officer, William Tecumseh Sherman, had been in California since 1847, and was a witness to the birth of California’s Americanization. Sherman was becoming such a confirmed Californian that he would soon leave the Army to become a San Francisco banker, after first consulting Richard about the possibilities of Army service in Oregon.

Richard had sailed from Mobile “in wretched spirits having been forced to leave his family in their distressed and dangerous situation,”25 and now, six months later, he was still filled with anxiety. There had been no mail from home in all this time, although he had just heard, indirectly, that Julia and the children had escaped the cholera. Despite the worry about his family’s health, Richard was at ease about his wife’s handling of his business affairs; he wrote to Julia with un-Victorian confidence:

As to the management of our affairs at home, you must be governed by your own good judgment. You have full power to do as you think best. Should you not sell the garden it is important to keep up the fruits. . . . Vegetables will not pay for their culture. The grape vines should be particularly attended to and pruned at the proper time in February.

After leaving the decision about selling property in Missouri to Julia, Richard unburdened himself about finances in California.

Everybody in trade here is making money, the officers of the Army and Navy excepted. W. Haynes my clerk, the young man I brought with me, is doing very well, all his leisure time being worth to him a dollar an hour, by which including his salary, he gets some five hundred dollars per month.26

Richard was astounded at the amazing burgeoning of San Francisco, writing in an official letter:

During my absence of less than four months, this place has undergone an incredible change, the number of houses having increased not less than threefold. And every article of trade and merchandise having advanced in the same ratio. Flour, when I left, was worth twelve dollars per barrel and is now held at thirty.27

In spite of the fantastic cost of living, he decided to make San Francisco his headquarters, “as the most central and convenient point, from which to discharge the duties of the Department,” explaining in a later letter:

San Francisco was the concentrating point of all the mails, the mart upon which all the trade and financial operations centered, the market where all purchases of subsistence must necessarily be made, the only place where my monied exchanges could be negotiated, the only place affording the means of that general information as to the resources of the country.28

This decision, apparently, was not his to make. Richard’s request for remuneration for quarters and fuel in San Francisco was arbitrarily denied on the grounds that the Army had designated Benieia as headquarters for all department.29 Major Vinton of the Quartermaster Department, who had been responsible for this refusal, soon found himself embroiled in a peppery correspondence, which would continue for over two years.

“Major Vinton takes exception to my manner and tone,” wrote Lee in a white rage. “I most respectfully refer him to the Matthew 4th and 5th verses as a proper reply.” Richard was convinced that his orders had given him freedom to set up his own headquarters where he wished, and not satisfied with mere “mote and beam” language, he wound up verbosely,

[Vinton] is truly a most lucky man. Having placed himself under the mantle of grace, I leave the Major without further molestation to the full enjoyment of his victory over the prostrate rights of his brother officers, or rather mine individually.30

That January was an unhappy period for Richard. In addition to the controversy withe Vinton, Richard suffered from ill health, having been “suddenly prostrated with a violent inflammation of the lungs accompanied by an alarming and distressing cough” which confined him to his quarters for a month. Towards the end of January, California too was suffering.

Everything at this time has a downward tendency: Gold dust is very scarce and money in great demand . . . merchants cannot obtain gold dust sufficient for necessary remittances. . . . There is a great dearth of business at this time owing to the flood which has inundated the valley of the Sacramento and suspended in a great measure the digging of gold.31

Bayard Taylor also was disenchanted by San Francisco’s rainy season, writing:

The mud in the streets became little short of fathomless, and it was with difficulty that the mules could drag their empty wagons through. . . . I saw occasionally a company of Chinese workmen, carrying bricks and mortar slung by ropes to long bamboo poles. The plank sidewalks, in the lower part of the city, ran along the brink of pools and quicksands. . . . A great deal of sickness.32

Benicia, in winter, was even worse. Here Richard found that the supplies were exposed to the weather and to pillage in temporary sheds or still stored in the transport ship. There was only one inadequate storehouse, but Richard hoped that the Quartermaster, Major Allen, would have an adequate one ready by the first of March, when the new supplies were supposed to arrive.

Lee wrote that the new supplies would be very welcome because the old flour was

. . . beginning to sour, although it still makes good bread. Nearly all the pork has lost its brine, and is more or less rusty. . . . The whiskey, vinegar and other fluids have also sustained a heavy loss from long storage on board the vessel, and the great pressure occasioned by packing large quantities together.33

Nevertheless, Richard felt that the supplies were still “fit for issue and will probably remain so until hot weather or until new the supply arrives.”

Rusty or not, 60,000 to 80,000 of these rations had to be sent the first of February to Camp Far West on Bear Creek, about forty miles north of Sacramento. It was essential to transport the supplies up swollen rivers during the rainy season to provision an expedition to the little known region east of Lassen Peak. The Indians of this area had to be punished for murdering Captain Warner, an Army officer who had been on an expedition the previous fall.34 Estimating that the expenses for the Department of Subsistence for 1850 would not exceed $100,000, Richard proposed to send $30,000 of this sum to Oregon, “that the Department in that quarter may be in condition to meet any contingency which may grow out of Indian difficulties.”35

The lack of fresh vegetables was a serious problem and was now taking its toll in the troops.

General Smith has just notified me that in consequence of some cases of scurvy having shown itself amongst the troops, he thinks of sending me to the Sandwich Islands [Hawaii] to purchase vegetables and fruits, and to make arrangements for regular supplies.36

Added to the difficulties of procuring supplies were those of banking. Before his departure for California, Richard had consulted with four Mexican merchants in New York, “Senors De Garay, Hargon, Wizeman and Patrullo,” and with “both of the Aspinwalls,” the owners of the successful steamship line that was conveying so many gold miners to California. These consultations had alerted him to the difficulties he was now encountering in the negotiations of drafts on New York and Washington. Optimistically, however, he hoped that the financial picture would be brighter in the Sandwich Islands.37

Richard boarded the Deucalion on February 8th, trusting that the sea voyage would benefit his health.38 The Deucalion was a New England built three-master, 140 feet long and 28 feet in the beam. She had brought a full load of gold miners to San Francisco the previous November, had been deserted by her gold-greedy crew, and had stood idle in the forest of ships until new owners had set her wandering. She was destined for a short, peripatetic existence, as in just two years she would be abandoned at sea, while bound from London to Boston. No speed breaker, she confined Richard to her decks for almost three weeks before she rounded Coco Head and Diamond Head to sail into Honolulu Harbor. As the Deucalion dropped anchor in a covy of New England whaling ships, outrigger canoes full of smiling Polynesian people paddled around the ship. The tall coconut palm trees along the shore and the lush green volcanic slopes rising behind the town looked very exotic to the American newcomers.

The town of Honolulu was a crossroads of East and West. King Kamehameha III, son of the “Conqueror of the Islands,” wore his yellow feather cape to hold court under a modern constitution which was patterned on that of the United States, the consuls of the Western powers keeping jealous eyes upon each other. Along the streets strolled the crews of New England whalers and clipper ships from the orient. Although the islands had been discovered by Captain Cook and claimed by Britain, the United States had become strongly entrenched through the ardent missionaries who had brought Christianity, literacy, and clothes to the Islands. The Christian king had just abolished feudalism, dividing his land among his people, many of whom were selling their newly acquired acres to foreigners. Consequently Americans were rapidly accumulating large plantations and ranches and the Islands were becoming white-dominated.

Richard spent a discouraging week in Honolulu, finding “the market completely exhausted of fruits and vegetables, the old crops having been completely exhausted and the new crops not sufficiently matured to gather.” This was no Pacific paradise for subsistence buyers, and Richard described his frustrating quest as follows:

Availing myself of the first opportunity, on the 8th of March 1 sailed for the Island of Hawaihae [sic] and after a passage of eight days landed at the bay of Kawaihae (pronounced Tohei) distant one hundred and seventy miles from Honolulu.

In spite of its distance from Honolulu, Kawaihae Bay, on the northwest coast of the island, was well known to the ubiquitous whalers, as Richard soon discovered:

At this place found several whale ships, and several trading vessels endeavouring to obtain supplies of vegetables, and so great was the excitement of competition, that they were taken at most exorbitant prices without regard to condition or quality. Hearing of a settlement about nine miles down the bay, the name of which I have forgotten, inaccessable to shipping, I proceeded to that place and found a few scattering patches of sweet and Irish potatoes about half matured, some pumpkins and a few coconuts. Returning to the landing of Kawaihae I procured horses and proceded [sic] to penetrate the beautiful and fertile valley of Waimiea about thirty miles, and near the base of the mountains.

One of the mountains looming over Waimiea Valley is the 13,784-foot active volcano Mauna Kea. In spite of its beautiful setting, however, Richard found Waimiea Valley very depressing, writing:

This valley was formerly thickly settled with villages of natives and abounds with numerous herds of horses, black cattle, sheep, goats, and swine, and twenty years ago contained a population of perhaps twenty thousand natives, in the full enjoyment of health and plenty, at this time it presents the most forlorn and abject spectacle, more than nine tenths of the people having disappeared from the face of the earth, and the remaining tenth being the most abandoned, diseased and wretched beings that live. The fine lands of this valley are gradually falling into the possession of white men, principally from the United States, and large plantations and farms are about being established which in the course of a few years will yield most of the products of the temperate and torrid zones.

Finding it impossible to make the desired purchases and as I intended, impracticable to cross to Hiloo [sic], in consequence of the gulches being rendered impassable by high waters, I retraced my steps to Kawaihae, and embarked for Lahinah, [Lahaina] on the Island of Mowee [sic] at which place I disembarked on the 21st of March.

Lahaina is on the northwest coast of Maui, across the Auau Channel from the island of Lanai. Lahaina was another mecca for whalers and a busy town. King Kamehamha III had a palace there, and there were substantial buildings of plastered coral stone such as the missionary Baldwin’s house and the Hale Pa’i print shop, a contrast to the natives’ grass huts. Americans had also built the Waiola Mission Church, a marine hospital and seamen’s graveyard as well as warehouses and shops. Behind the town taro and breadfruit, the main food of the Hawaiians, grew in abundance, but American vegetables and fruits were scarce. Richard continued his report in a discouraged tone:

As at Honolulu and Hawaihae I found here also several whalers and trading vessels laying in supplies of vegetables, and the old crops entirely exhausted, and consequently no means of making my purchases. I was satisfied that half matured vegetables would not bear the passage. This proved to be the fact, as the vessel which I returned, laden with fifty tons of vegetables lost by decay her whole cargo excepting about one hundred barrels of potatoes.

At Lahinah I met Lieut. Gibson of the Artillery in feeble health, but rapidly improving. This officer would have returned with me, but finding that a few weeks detention would not only materially benefit his health, and at that same time the crops would be sufficiently matured to gather, I assumed the responsibility of detaining him, appointed him an Acting Assistant Com. of Subs. and placed in his hands funds to make the required purchases. . . .

I also entered into an agreement with Bush & Co. merchants at Lahinah to forward future supplies upon properly authenticated requisitions. . . .

On the 27th of March I embarked on board the “Bark Brummand” bound for San Francisco via Honolulu, arrived at that place on the 28th, proceeded thence to a settlement on Wahoo (Oahu) distant forty miles and on the 2nd of April I took my final departure for San Francisco, whence I disembarked on the 8th of May after a passage of thirty six days.

At the end of his report came a plaintive postscript: “You will see that with my usual luck that during my absence of eighty days I was seventy days at sea.”39

Lieutenant H. G. J. Gibson purchased the vegetables “deemed necessary for the health and comfort of the troops in California,” and as soon as they had matured, 250 bushels of Irish potatoes, 100 bushels of sweet potatoes and 500 squashes or were sent to Benicia.40

Commuting between San Francisco and Benicia for a short interim, Richard found himself involved in the usual problems of his department, especially that of transportation. Transportation over unexplored land was difficult at best. Repeatedly, Richard urged that the supplies be set out from the East early enough in the year to be transported while the forage was lush on the California trails. Wagons had proved to be useless, especially in the pursuit of Indians, and in May he explained: “The train sent out with a command of about one hundred men under command of Capt. Lyon, to the vicinity of Clear Lake to chastise some Indians, has returned to Benicia because of the impracticability of the country for waggons.”41 There was one bright spot in the transportation picture that May, however.

The first trip of the ocean, monthly line of Mail Steamers between this place [San Francisco] and Oregon takes place about the 20th of the present month and if continued will afford great facilities of intercourse between the two places.42

Richard seemed in no hurry to return to the East.

On my return to this place (San Francisco) I was again attacked and am now quite sick, although going about.

I entertain hopes that my visit to the soft and delightful climate of San Diego and the Southern Posts, several hundred miles of which must be performed on horseback will restore my health. Unless this should be the case, it is the opinion of my medical advisors, as well as my own, that I cannot safely expose myself to the winter climate of the States.

My old wound in the lung, the seat of my disease, has become exceedingly sensitive to cold and sudden changes of the weather; I therefore request that I may not be superceded or recalled until next Spring.43

The dry climate and horseback riding effected the cure, and July found him writing, “Having visited Monterey, San Pedro and the port of San Diago [sic] I am now making my arrangements for my return trip by land,” adding his observation that “San Diago [sic] is in important military position and will probably become a permanent subsistence depot.”44

Richard was undaunted by the hazards of traveling by land in Southern California, although the area was noted for its highwaymen and murderers. The mail service between San Francisco and Los Angeles still took two weeks at best, and transportation would remain unpredictable until 1858.

Back in Benicia in August, after visiting all the Southern California forts except the one “about to be occupied on the Hila River,” Richard added a supplement to his estimate of rations for the next year, explaining that the large consumption of sugar by the officers was due to the lack of fresh vegetables. The daily rations totalled 2150: 198 for three troops of Dragoons, 228 for three companies of Artillery, 764 for one regiment of Infantry and 960 for officers, employees, and Indians. Both General Smith and Bennett Riley signed their approval, General Smith adding, “Benicia and not San Francisco is the depot, it costs often as much to bring supplies from San Francisco to the depot as from the Atlantic States.”45

Returning to Benicia in October, after serving on a General Court Martial in San Diego, Richard reported to the Assistant General of the Pacific, Joseph Hooker. Big red-headed “Fighting Joe Hooker” had joined General Smith’s staff in June 1849, but would retire from the Army in 1853 to take up ranching in Sonoma, California. He was a classmate of Sherman’s, their lives similarly intertwined with the skeins of California and Civil War.

During Lee’s two months absence, San Francisco prices had fluctuated giddily. “Flour . . . held at thirteen dollars per bag (200 lbs.) . . . in the short interval . . . up to thirty dollars, but is again on the decline. Whether this will effect the Chile market remains to be seen.” The present supplies were deceptive in appearance: although the beans appeared to be the best quality, they proved to be impossible to cook, the flour was musty, and the rice had “much weevils and some worms.” These conditions made it imperative him to visit South America to remedy the situation, and Richard asked for orders to travel on a steamer, leaving on November 1st, as at all cost he wanted to avoid passage on a transport.46

Sailing on October 31, 1850, Richard crossed the equator into summer, arriving in Chile on December 20th, “after a passage of twenty-seven days from Panama.” The harbor of Valparaiso nestled like a beautiful fjord in high mountains, protected by a lighthouse on a high promontory. The city was bustling and modern, with an imposing promenade and substantial business houses, one of which had a reading room stacked with New York papers. The American Consulate stood in a row of great residences along a high cliff, its flag visible from afar, and here we find Richard on Christmas Day, writing letters home to his family and to his commanding officer.

I find the market in a very excited condition owing to the recent high prices in California . . . I shall remain uncommitted until my visit to the Talcahuano Mills, the principal source from whence the flour of this country is obtained. I expect to start day after tomorrow for Talcahuan [Chile] taking in my route San Iago [Santiago] and Talca, another extensive milling district. The distance is about seven hundred miles and performed on horseback and in gigs, and occupies about ten or twelve days. From Talcahuano I will return by sea availing myself of the trade winds.47

A month later Richard found himself back in Valparaiso, after “a tour of about thirteen hundred miles through the finest portion of Chile, seven hundred miles of which I performed in a Gig and on horseback.” His chartered vessel had arrived and was soon loaded with 4,000 100-pound bags of flour, 600 bushels of beans, 500 bushels of potatoes and pickled cabbages, beets, and carrots. Mr. Joshua Waddington had been paid $1,400 for the 400,000 pounds of potatoes and had signed a contract to ship additional supplies in April “on board a good staunch and safe vessel directly to the port of Benicia.”48

The ship put into Callao for twenty-four hours to take on water, “there being no fresh water nearer than thirty miles to Payta,” (Paita) the next port of call. Callao was a conglomeration of bamboo shanties, grog shops, and warehouses, sprawled along the waterfront, guarded by the ruins of an old fort which had been destroyed by the earthquake of 1746. This earthquake seemed to dominate the town and all travelers were hustled off to see the ruins of the old city, submerged beneath the sea.

Seven miles from this scruffy waterfront stood ancient lima, where the arches of a two hundred-year-old bridge spanned the Rimac River. This was a sophisticated city: a great cathedral with altars and shrines of Inca gold, an impressive palace, an old university and plaza, colorful with embroiderers of gold and silver, Indian flower girls, and ice-cream vendors. Beautifully dressed Peruvians rode on horseback or in shining carriages in the Alameda, a lovely park.

Rice, sugar, sweet potatoes, onions, pumpkins, and a small quantity of coffee and cocoa were procured in Paita; the waterless port some five hundred miles to the north of Callao. Here Richard reported on the products of Chile, Peru, and Ecuador but with little enthusiasm.

The unsettled state of the South American markets, the numerous frauds that are practiced in the quality, weights and measures, which it is impossible to guard against renders it advisable that the next shipments of supplies for the army of California and Oregon should be made from the U.S. with the exception of Flour, beans, fresh fruits and vegetables. The Flour and Beans of Chile are decidedly superior to those sent from the United States, and may be obtained as cheap.49

The fresh vegetables were stored on top of the cabins, “for the purpose of free ventilation” during the “long and tedious voyage” north. All was well until “within one hundred miles of San Diego the ship encountered a very severe gale and shipped a heavy sea, which swept her deck load consisting of the vegetables.” The potatoes, onions, and all the pumpkins were lost. Fortunately the vegetables pickled on the voyage were saved, and the supplies stored below decks arrived in excellent condition.

After depositing part of the cargo at San Diego on June 1st, they proceeded to San Francisco, where it was discovered that the supplies were not needed after all. The old troops had been scattered all over the state, and the new troops, expected to augment the California army, had not arrived. Richard, however, was undaunted by this blow and assured his commanding officer that he would be able to sell the extra supplies at a profit, in fact at “a large profit.”50

Barely taking time to unpack, Richard was off again for Oregon, an Oregon of war: “There is the beginning of a general Indian War which will lead to much bloodshed and expense. This, as in all other similar Indian Wars will have been brought about by outrage and oppression on the part of our people.”51 When Richard wrote that the Indian uprisings resulted from “the outrage and oppression on the part of our people,” he referred to the broken treaties and the white men’s encroaching on and taking the lands given to the Indians “in perpetuity.” His was a minority voice crying in the wilderness in defense of the Indian, a voice that went unheeded until it was too late.

Having completed the inspection of the posts in Oregon, Richard returned to San Francisco to wind up his affairs before departing the first of August 1851 for Washington, D.C. He left California feeling “fully prepared to furnish much valuable information with regard to the future Army operations of this country.”52 He also felt qualified as an expert on transportation after his return trip via Panama and heartily endorsed this route for the future transportation of troops.

I consider in my point of view the steamer route by the way of Panama the most favourable. By this route as at present regulated, the possible time will not exceed thirty three days and the cost one hundred and thirty dollars, including the passage of the Isthmus, which under the recent improvements, may be accomplished by an easy day’s march.

Some arrangements should be made in case of unforeseen detention at Panama for the quartering and feeding of recruits.

To facilitate the crossing of the Isthmus all baggage and equipage not absolutely necessary for the march should be dispensed with.

Those recruits intended for Southern California and Monterey might be landed at San Diego and Monterey at both of which points the mail steamers touch by contract. This would save several weeks in time, and about forty dollars per man, in the destination. The recruits intended for Northern California might be landed at Benicia, the termination of the steamer route, and the location of the Quartermaster and Subsistence depots, from whence the equipment and distribution will probably take place.

In the estimate of one hundred and thirty dollars per man, I include boarding as it would be impracticable for soldiers to cook on board the steamer, and if practicable, the fare furnished by the boats is more wholesome and suitable to the journey.

To avoid the inconvenience of a crowd I recommend that not more than two hundred and fifty men be shipped by the same trip on a boat.

P.S. The most favourable periods to cross the Isthmus at Panama is during the dry season, from the middle of December to the first of April.

San Francisco, 1851. The wide streets and piers are, from left to right,
Central Wharf, Howison’s Pier, California Street, Market Street Pier.
From collection of California Historical Society.

To this letter was added the Adjutant General’s endorsement, “The route via Cape Horn cannot be accomplished in less time than five or six months.” The Commanding General, Winfield Scott, suggested a way to pass troops through a foreign country:

The recruits would pass the Isthmus not as troops, but as passengers and I do not suppose the previous authority of the government of New Granada [Panama] need to be obtained. . . . No doubt the passage via the Isthmus is preferable in respect to time, safety and economy.53

Consequently, five hundred recruits received orders on December 31, 1851, to proceed via the Isthmus, according to Lee’s plan.

Back in Washington, Richard was engulfed in enthusiastic family reunions. We can glimpse them all through the eyes of eighty-three-year-old Elizabeth. Richard, she wrote, was “looking younger and better than when he left us—tho I think this climate does not suit his constitution the constant change from cold to summer heat his cough.” Julia “looks quite young and much beloved and admired. . . .” The old lady was grateful that they managed to visit her every day,” . . . So greatly are they surrounded by company all day and engagements every night . . . as they are great bells here. . . . But Washington is a place of hurry and confusion—To follow suit and keep it up is a life of toil—a trial of health and means.54

The “hurry and confusion” were far from being a “trial” for twenty-one-year-old Evelina. The social whirl spun to a happy climax at her wedding to Edwin Cecil Morgan, in July 1853.

All was not fun and frolic, however; a large closely knit family bears many burdens. Richard had been shocked at the poor health of his sister, Ann Matilda, and her husband. Losing forty pounds while ill for a year at sea, the Naval Surgeon looked like “an old broken down man” and was so changed that old friends failed to recognize him on the street. Nursing her sick husband had also aged Ann Matilda and broken her looks. Although Dr, Washington seemed to gain for awhile, the improvement was only temporary, and he died in August 1854.

Poverty seemed to be a recurrent bane. Elizabeth had recently suffered the embarrassment of having to borrow from the bank for the first time and was now dependent upon Richard and Julia for an allowance. Ann Matilda’s finances were equally precarious after her husband’s death, until his pension became available.

Mother and daughter: Julia Anna Marion Prosser Lee
and Evelina Prosser Lee Morgan (b. 1832).

As Richard enfolded these with his personal burdens, he thought of his father half a century before, coping with Light Horse Harry’s debts, taking in orphaned cousins and quietly assisting many others. Fortunately, his father’s cloak seemed to fit his shoulders.

During the summer of 1852, Richard and a captain in his department felt uncertain about the future, as they drifted between assignments. Young Billy Sherman, who had met Richard in San Francisco when he returned from his trip to Oregon, now wrote a letter from St. Louis full of questions about the future, which received this informal, friendly answer from Old Point Comfort.

July 7, 1852

Your letter of June 22 directed to me at Washington reached me at this place this morning where I am on a visit for the benefit of the health of a portion of my family.

I regret very much the suspense and inconvenience I must have occasioned yourself and family, but I have been in the same plight myself, and am yet uncertain as to my movements. I expected to be assigned to duty at St. Louis soon after my return from California, but having my accounts to close, and reason to think it might be agreeable to you to spend the winter in St. Louis, availed myself of the occasion to remain at Washington. My movements are a little uncertain now depending upon circumstances beyond my control. As soon as I know myself I will write to you upon the subject. I expect to return to Washington in the course of two days, when I presume the plans for my future would be determined.

You speak of going to Oregon. I would not advise you to seek that mission. Oregon at present holds few inducements as a station, and the duties of the Department there are unimportant and exceedingly limited.

After discussing other aspects of Oregon and gossiping about the illness and possible retirement of some officers, Richard offered advice, smacking of semi-collusion.

You had better therefore for the present enter into no permanent arrangements. Should I be ordered to relieve you, there need be no occasion for hurry between us.

I am attempting to write with a miserable pen and must ask you to excuse me, if you cannot read the scrawl, W. Rootes can probably make it out.

P.S. Again I ask you to excuse this note. I can get no other pen in time for the mail today.55

Richard seemed to be on fairly intimate terms with Sherman, aware of Sherman’s ties with St. Louis, and sympathetic with the uncertainties suffered by Sherman’s family. Another link between them was W. Rootes, Richard’s step-brother-in-law, who was with Sherman and a close enough friend to be able to decipher Richard’s abominable handwriting.

Discouraged by Richard’s negative report on Oregon, Sherman would soon resign from the Army and return to San Francisco, and in just ten years, they would face each other as enemies, across the carnage of a terrible battle field.

It never occurred to Lee to keep the letters from his junior officer. The young captain, however, must have felt the finger of fate on his shoulder, and carefully saved Lee’s letter, perhaps suspecting, that posterity would preserve everything connected with the name of General William Tecumseh Sherman.



1. Lee, R. B. Letter to Major General George Gibson, August 27, 1849. T. W. Norris Collection, Bancroft Library, Berkeley, Ca.

The expenses of my clerk kept most accurately under my supervision are as follows: to San Blas $572.73, thence to San Francisco $295.00 and thence to Benicia and back to San Francisco &336;36.87, in all $;904.60 dollars.

Lee’s orders; op. cit., specified that he was to take a civilian clerk with him “at a rate not to exceed seventy five dollars a month,” and Lee was to pay for his traveling expenses.”

2. Lee, R. B. Letter to Jab P. Lee, June 14, 1849 (R.B.L.F. Collection).

3. Lee, R. B. Letter to his mother, Elizabeth Collins Lee, Tepic, July 24, 1849, owned by the late Mrs. William Fitzhugh Rust, Leesburg, Va.

4. Lee, R. B. Letter to Major General George Gibson, August 27, 1849, op. cit.

5. Lee, R. B. Letter to Elizabeth Collins Lee, July 24, 1849, op. cit.

6, Lee, R. B. Letter to Major General George Gibson, August 27, 1849, op. cit.

7. Ibid.

8. Lee, R. B, Letter to Major General George Gibson, August 9, 1849, National Archives, states that the steamer Panama has been sighted, “No landing has yet taken place from her but although crowded with passengers I take it for granted I shall obtain a place in some part of the boat. In which event in ten days I hope to reach San Francisco.”

9. Taylor, Bayard, Eldorado, New York, 1850, Vol. I, p. 32.

10. Ibid., p. 42.

11. Ibid., p. 45.

12. Ibid., p. 46.

13. Ibid., p. 51.

14. Idem.

15. Ibid., p. 52.

16. Ibid., p. 117.

17. Lee, R. B. Letter August 27, op. cit.

18. Lee, R. B. Letter to Major General George Gibson, August 29, 1849. T. W. Norris Collection, Bancroft Library, Berkeley, Ca.

19. Lee, R. B. Letter, op. cit. August 27, 1849.

20. Lee, R. B. Letter to Major General George Gibson, December 28, 1849. T. W. Norris Collection, Bancroft Library, Berkeley, Ca.

21. Ibid.

22. Ibid.

23. Lee, R. B. Letter to Major General Gibson, June 8, 1850, National Archives.

24. Sherman, General W. T., Memoirs of General W. Sherman, New York, 1891, Vol. 3, p. 101.

25. Lee, Elizabeth C., Letter to Julia Lee, November 18, 1849 (R.B.L.F. Collection).

26. Lee, R. B. Letter to Julia Lee, December 29, 1849 (R.B.L.F. Collection).

27. Lee, R. B. Letter to Major General George Gibson, December 28, 1859. T. W. Norris Collection, Bancroft Library, Berkeley, Ca.

28. Lee, R. B. Letter, op. cit., August 27,1849.

Lee, R. B., Letter to Major General George Gibson, October 30, 1850, National Archives.

29. Lee, R. B. Letter to Secretary of Charles M. Conrad, January 9, 1852, National Archives.

Lee points out Vinton’s errors in commutation as follows: “The Commanding General’s House in San Francisco was rented for $5000 in the second quarter of ’49, ‘Exceeding Major Vinton’s commutation four thousand one hundred dollars.’ At Sonoma, General Persifer Smith’s house was rented ‘at the rate of three thousand dollars for year, being two thousand one hundred dollars more than commutation.’ All prices ‘in the space of two months increased three fold and inconvenient lodging rooms readily commanded from two to three hundred dollars per month, wood was worth from forty to sixty dollars per cord on the landing and the cost of hauling nearly equivalent to the price. . . .’”

Wages were exorbitant. “Laborers and mechanics at Benicia from six to fifteen dollars a day (Estimated at ten hours of work) besides a ration and a half each, tents and quarters to live in and their cooking furnished.”

Lee’s request for $170 for room and $35 for wood had been whittled down to $100 and $25 respectively by Vinton.

30. Lee, R. B. Letter to General Persifer F. Smith, January 6, 1850, National Archives.

31. Lee, R. B. Letter to Major General George Gibson, January 29, 1850, National Archives.

32. Taylor, Bayard, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 59–60.

33. Lee, R. B. Letter to Major General George Gibson, January 14, 1850. T. W. Norris Collection, Bancroft Library, Berkeley, Ca.

34. Smith, General Persifer. Letter to Lee, R. B., January 25, 1850.

Lee, R. B. Letter to General Persifer Smith, February 1, 1850, National Archives.

35. Also see notes about Captain Warner in Bruff, S. Goldsborough, Gold Rush, Edited by Georgia Willis Read and Ruth Gaines, New York, 1949.

36. Lee, R. B. Letter to Major General George Gibson, January 14, 1850, op. cit.

37. Lee, R. B. Letter to Major General George Gibson, May 4, 1849, National Archives.

At New York I formed the acquaintance of several distinguished Mexicans, amongst whom were Senors De Garay, Hargon, Wizeman and Patrullo, the two former are merchants of the first class, and largely interested in shipping interests and the exportation of specie. Both of whom I believe were extensive purchasers of drafts upon our government during the war with Mexico.

It is the opinion of these gentlemen that sales of drafts upon our government may at this time be negotiated in Mexico at par for specie delivered at Mazatlan. Should this prove to be the case, it is probably the best means of furnishing funds for the use of the Subsistence and other departments of the government. . . .

During my visit to New York I also became acquainted with both of the
Aspinwalls [who felt that drafts upon the government would meet with difficulty
and at considerable discount].

Lee, R. B. Letter to Major General George Gibson, January 14, 1850, op. cit.

Finding that drafts on New York and Washington could not be negotiated at par suggested that the Department should supply funds or authorize him to draw upon the Custom House at San Francisco. He said that he had heard that “drafts on the Department may be sold at par at the Island,” and hoped to avail himself of this opportunity upon reaching Hawaii.

38. Passenger manifest of the ship Deucalion, arriving at Honolulu, March 1, 1850, lists as follows: “Richard B. Lee, 45, U.S. Army.” Public Archives, Territory of Hawaii.

Lee, R. B. Letter to Major General George Gibson, June 8, 1850, National Archives.

Somers, Chester L., author of The Winchester Family in Gloucester, 1956, made an extended study of the Deucalion, which he kindly shared with me.

39. Lee, R. B. Letter to General Persifer Smith, May 20, 1850, National Archives.

40. Lee, R. B. Letter to Lieutenant H. G. J. Gibson, March 25, 1850, National Archives.

41. Lee, R. B. Letter to Major General George Gibson, May 12, 1850, National Archives.

42. Ibid.

43. Lee, R. B. Letter to Major General George Gibson, June 8, 1850, National Archives.

44. Lee, R. B. to General Persifer Smith, July 14, 1850, National Archives.

45. Lee, R. B. Letter to Lieutenant Colonel J. Hooker, August 24, 1850, encloses estimate and supplement for year beginning July 1, 1851, National Archives.

Lee, R. B. Letters to Major General George Gibson, August 24, 1850, August 31, 1850, National Archives.

46. Lee, R. B. Letter to Major General George Gibson, October 19, 1850, National Archives.

47. Lee, R. B. Letter to Major General George Gibson, December 25, 1850, National Archives.

48. Lee, R. B. Letter to Major General George Gibson, January 25, 1851, National Archives.

Agreement with Joshua Waddington, February 20, 1851, National Archives.

49. Lee, R. B. Letter to Major General George Gibson, March 31, 1851, National Archives.

“From Peyta I shall be enabled to furnish accurate information as to the products of Peru and Ecuador.” The descriptions of Callao, Lima and Valparaiso are from the diaries of various old Gold Rush voyagers.

50. Lee, R. B. Letter to Major General George Gibson, June 14, 1851, National Archives.

51. Ibid.

52. Ibid.

53. Lee, R. B. Letter to R. Jones, November 5, 1851, National Archives.

Endorsement by Winfield Scott, November 28, 1851. Endorsement by R. Jones, November 27, 1851.

54. Lee, Elizabeth C. Letter to Mary Lee Fleming, February 12, 1852 (R.B.L.F. Collection).

55. Lee, R. B. Letter to Captain W. T. Sherman, July 7, 1852, “Sherman Papers,” Library of Congress.

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